Moral Development and Leisure: A Case Study of an Adolescent with' a Behavior Disorder


  • Alexis McKenney
  • John Dattilo


moral development, dilemma, leisure, adolescent


The number of crimes committed by adolescents in the United States has remained consistendy high since 1992. These individuals may lack the necessary skills to make moral decisions when faced with conflicts during their leisure. Little is known, however, about the relationship between moral development and leisure. The purpose of this study was to develop insight into how one adolescent with a history of criminal behavior made decisions when confronted with moral dilemmas related to leisure. An in-depth qualitative case study was conducted to examine how Pat, a 15-year-old Caucasian boy residing in a psyclliatric facility, chose leisure activities and made decisions when faced with dilemmas. Data analysis involved the development of coding categories from which d1emes were identified. Six themes were tided and placed in a case record that was used to construct the case study. One theme, "any time of the day can be free time," related to Pat's recreation history. Pat described himself as a person who could create free time when he chose; therefore, he could enjoy leisure experiences at any time. Another theme, "hanging around different people doing things they liked," emerged from his changing social interests. As Pat developed new friendships, he participated in unlawful activities chosen by peers. The theme, "when you have to have everything your way," emerged from observations of Pat appearing frustrated when interacting with peers during sports. The theme, "looking for a higher form of thinking," emerged from observing Pat isolate himself during recreation activities. Pat often used recreation activities to think about what led to his admission to the psychiatric facility and why he was arrested. Another theme titled, "not for the fun of it, for the hatred of it," emerged from Pat describing himself as being aggressive. The theme, "certain things are worth being good, certain things are worth being bad," related to Pat's decisions when faced with dilemmas. Pat was motivated to alleviate feelings of fear and evade consequences; d1erefore, he may have been confronting these decisions from a low level of moral development. This study presents a basis from which to examine how adolescents who commit crimes make decisions when faced with a moral dilemma during their free time. Leisure professionals may consider developing leisure education programs which incorporate moral dilemma discussions similar to those that have promoted moral development among adolescents.





Regular Papers